8 Things to Do, See & Visit on a trip to Paris

I’d visited Paris a couple of times before last year but they have always been quite fleeting visits for a few days. However in 2022, my daughter secured an internship in Paris as part of her University studies. She was staying for 3 weeks assisting a very good fashion photographer and of course, it was only right as my duty as her mother, to go and settle her in to her apartment, this being her first trip to the city πŸ™‚

We found her apartment through Air BNB, in a lovely suburb of Paris called Saint Mande, which made the 3 week booking slightly more economical than staying in the centre and it was well linked to the city, by the metro, to the studio where she would be working.

I’ve been asked a few times since my visit, for recommendations for places to eat, shop & stay in Paris and as I was there last year, for 9 days, I covered a lot of ground on my own, whilst Amber was busy working. So here are my 8 things that I think you might enjoy doing whilst in Paris. Obviously this isn’t an exhaustive list and it’s only what I enjoyed doing whilst I was there, but I guessed some of them might be useful?  I was there last March 2022 so if any of the places I recommend are no longer there I apologise, but I’m sure many of them will be.

Amber going to work in her typically Parisian studio

1.Stay

As I’ve said, I booked an Air bnb for Amber in a less central location due to the cost of staying for 3 weeks. Paris is, as you all know, expensive, but staying slightly out of the centre reduced the costs slightly. Saint Mande, the area where Amber stayed is a middle class residential suburb of Paris. There are plenty of restaurants & bars, a weekly brocante market and a metro station with around a 20 minute commute into Republique in the centre where Amber’s studio was located. Another similar area, and the next stop from Saint Mande, from the centre of Paris, is Vincennes which is another lovely small old town, safe & clean & perfect for a longer stay in Paris. Both these options are worth looking at on air bnb and there are plenty of choices.

In previous years I’ve also used a company called One Fine Stay who offer more luxury self catering accomodation.

Our apartment in Le Marais that we booked through One Fine Stay a few years ago

If you are looking to stay in a hotel, there are of course hundreds, if not thousands, to choose from. Some of my favourites are:

The Hoxton

I’ve not stayed at the Hoxton in Paris, but I have eaten there and I have stayed at their hotels in London & Amsterdam, so I know the standard they provide and it’s exceptionally good, whilst also being very cool. The food at the Hoxton is very traditional French bistro fayre, such as Croque Monsiour and esgarcots but there is also the usual Hoxton offerings of burger and steak. The building itself is grand & imposing when you enter and it’s in the 2nd Arrondisoment which is very central.

The Hoxton Paris

Hotel Caron De Beaumarchais

For those of you that want to feel as though you have been transported back to the 18th Century and stay in the oldest part of Paris, Le Marias, then this is the hotel for you. It has the ambiance of a private house and and the rooms are decorated in the classical French style of the period with beautiful crystal chandeliers and antique furniture.

Photo credit Hotel Caron De Beaumarchais

La Pigalle

For something completely different, modern, quirky and a little decadent, then locate yourself in South Pigalle or SoPi as the area has been renamed by the hipsters. A 5 minute walk from the Moulins Rouge and the red light area, this arrondissement of the city has been gentrified over the last few years and is now the place for great bars, food and live entertainment. The hotel has a restaurant open for breakfast until the early hours and a DJ set every Thursday, Friday & Saturday night from 10.00pm, as well as regular pop up events. Check their website for details. The area of SoPi is also home to a popular cocktail bar called Dirty Dick, it used to be a hostess bar and they kept the name. This gives you more of a description of the area as it was than any words I can say πŸ™‚

Photo credit Hotel La Pigalle

2. Walk

Montmartre

My advice to anyone who only has a very short stay in Paris, maybe only one day, but wants to get a flavour for the city in a very traditional Parisian way, is go to Montmartre. Yes it’s touristy and yes it’s a bit of a pastiche of how Paris was, but to me it still feels authentically Parisian. Start at the bottom of the steps of the Sacre Couer, avoiding the tat tourist shops before you ascend the steps. Once you get to the top, there is a little park to the left where you can sit and gaze at the spectacular view of the city roof tops, without getting embroiled in the hoardes of tourists in front of the Sacre Coeur. As you walk around the back of the Sacre Couer you’ll eventually find yourself in the heart of Montmartre, the area made famous by the artists that flocked to the city. The main square is surrounded by typical French restaurants, but they are all mainly very good and some unchanged since the 35 years ago that I first visited. You can easily spend the best part of a day wandering up and down the steps, in and around the myriad of streets that surround the area, shopping for antiques, stopping for a galette or a coffee. It is still, to me, quite a magical place and there are surprisingly some very good antique shops there, that aren’t ridiculously expensive.

One of the typically Parisian restaurants in Montmartre

Le Marais

Le Marais is one of the oldest areas in Paris but fell into disrepair after the French Revolution. The area is now extremely fashionable and known for it’s designer shops, art galleries, such as The Picasso Museum and great restaurants and bars. It was once the cities Jewish Quarter and although Rue Des Rosiers is no longer lined with Jewish bakeries and Kosher butchers, you can still find some great Jewish food such as Miznon who serve delicious kebabs, chicken salads and dips from the Middle East. I ate there with my daughter for Just 35 euros for the two of us. Walking around Le Marias and the Place des Vosges, where the author Victor Hugo lived, who famously penned Les Miserables, you’ll get a real sense of history and the events that led to the French Revolution. If you’re lucky enough to be in Place des Vosges on a Sunday, you can wander the farmers and antique market stalls that surround the square and if the weather is good enough, buy some cheese and bread from one of the market stalls and sit on the grass and people watch, as the Parisians themselves do.

A boutique in Le Marais

One of the well known bars in Le Marais

Place Des Vosges on a Sunday photo Credit Tripsavvy.com

Canal Saint Martin

This area is Paris off the beaten track. The canal links to the Seine & is lovely to walk along with it’s series of bridges. It’s an area that’s attracted a lot of young Parisians to live there as the rents are cheaper, which has made it an emerging area for some cool shops, bars & restaurants and it feels much less touristy than other areas of the city. It’s another good area to stay as it’s safe and less expensive than the city centre.

3.See

Paris is full of green space and there are many beautiful gardens to explore or just sit and take in your surroundings. One of my favourites is Jardin Du Luxembourg which is known for it’s spectacular lawns and tree lined promenades. there is also a lake and glass house and it’s just a beautiful park, to take a macaron and coffee and watch the world go by. It’s also a short walk to Saint Germain Des Press where you can explore the many specialist antiquarian book shops and purchase that afore mentioned macaron, as it’s also, in this area where there is a branch of Laduree the famous French macarons.

Although Paris has some beautiful parks to explore, there is also a version of the New York Skyline which you can walk along. The Promenade Plantee is raised just 10 metres above street level & gives a lovely panoramic view of the city as you walk from Bastille where it starts, to Bois De Vincennes. There are various viewing points and seating areas, amongst the lush planting. It opened in 1993, so is well established and a perfect stroll through parts of the city on a different level.

As obvious and touristy as it sounds, I would definitely say if you haven’t seen the Eiffel Tower then go and see it. It’s quite imposing as you approach it and see it towering above the other buildings in the distance. If you view it after nightfall, so much the better, as it’s lit up and twinkles like a huge diamond. Some of the best areas to see it from are Rue de L’Universitie a residential Street that ends at Champs de Mars. Also you can visit the Museum of Architecture & Patrimoine and get a great view of the tower from inside the building. It’s open some evenings after sunset for that all important twinkling view and they have a restaurant with a viewing platform, which you can book called Giraffe, although it is 4 star and expensive. Also the view from Place Du Trocadero is good as it’s directly across the river from the tower.

4. Visit

Musee D’Orsay

There are many wonderful art galleries & Museums in Paris & I will mention some of my favourites here, but if you love impressionist style paintings by the great French masters such as Monet, Renoir, Pissaro & Cezanne, there is only one gallery you need to visit & it’s Musee D’orsay. The grand entrance confirms that this was once a train station built in the Beaux arts period between 1898-1900 and the displays of French art are vast. You’ll find yourself here for a few hours at least, so if you have time, try and dedicate a morning or afternoon to it. 

The main gallery Musee D’Orsay

A Degas hung in Musee D’Orsay

Shakespeare & Company Book shop

One of the oldest English book shops in Paris, opened in 1951 and quickly becoming a centre for ex pat life in the city. Some literary greats such as Ginsberg and Anais Nin were frequent visitors to the shop and in recent years a cafe has been added serving their own blend of coffee and anglo inspired vegan and vegetarian food. Located just opposite Notre dame and on the edge of the Latin Quarter, it’s a perfect place to start or end your walk around this lovely quarter of Paris.

Shakespeare & Company

 

Musee Yves Saint Laurent

If you are a lover of fashion, then I would highly recommend a visit to the Musee Yves Saint Laurent. Housed in the former designers Atelier, the museum exhibits include original toiles of the designs from over the decades, sketches and polaroids of the models, a selection of the finished garments and accessories & finally Monsieur Laurents studio in which you can see his desk and work space where he created all the magic. 

Yves Saint Laurent Museum

Picasso Museum

This large & beautiful historic building, located in Le Marais pays homage to the great artist and his many years spent living in Paris. At the time of my visit, there was also an exhibition dedicated to the collection by designer Yves Saint Laurent which was inspired by Picasso’s work. The views of the city from this beautiful museum are also pretty special. Also worth noting, if you are in Paris on the first Sunday of the month, all museums, such as The Picasso, Musee D’Orsay and The Louvre are free to enter.

Picasso Museum Paris

5. Shop

Merci

One of the most well known European concept stores for a reason. This beautiful store with it’s collections of,hard to find, and often exclusive brands, is one of the most impressively visually merchandised srtores I’ve visited anywhere. As well as clothes, homewares, books and cosmetics, there is also a lovely cafe for lunch or just a drink, which has been designed like a library in which you’re free to read any of the books on the shelves during your stay. You’ll know you’ve arrived when you spot the iconic red Fiat 500 parked in the courtyard outside.

The cafe in Merci

 

Puces De Paris Saint Ouen Flea Market

There are many flea & brocante markets dotted all over Paris but the biggest & the best, probably in the whole of Europe, is at Saint Ouen. It’s a permanent fixture with many expensive shops as well as smaller, cheaper stalls and is open Saturday, Sunday & Monday.You will literally find anything & everything here and there are plenty of bars, cafes & restaurants within the antiques village for regular pit stops & people watching. A word of warning, the area isn’t the best in Paris so when you walk from the metro to the market, be vigilant and don’t take too much cash, valuables, such as expensive cameras or your passport. Look confident and you’ll be ok, just be aware.

Image of Saint Ouen Flea Market https://uk.hotels.com

Kilo Vintage Clothes Store

There are some fantastic vintage clothes stores In Paris, many in Le Marais where you have to ring a door bell and wait to enter. One of the best that we shopped at was Kiloshop.com. As it says on the tin, your clothes are paid for by weight and are also often priced according to quality and condition, but they are still very cheap and this store had an area at the back of the shop, which had been curated in the seasons colours and trending styles, to make your selection even easier.

https://www.kilo-shop.com/en/

 

Samaritaine

Paris, like any major European city, has many department stores. From Galerie Lafayette, Printemps to Le Bon Marche, I’ve visited them all but, by far the best, for me, is the newly restored Samaritaine. It’s got all the more unusual, harder to find, never heard of before, brands of clothes, make up & perfume. It’s reasonably compact compared to the others and is therefore less over whelming if you’re short on time.

Samaritaine

6.Eat 

There are so many great places to eat in Paris and of course often the best way to find somewhere cool is just by walking past and stumbling across it, but post Covid, it’s always often worth booking somewhere you particularly want to eat, as walk in’s are sometimes more problematic than pre Covid times? My last visit to Paris was also over a year ago & places that were then the place du jour change all the time in cities so there may be better options. I always look at Time Out guide before a trip to check where they are suggesting. At the time of my visit these are places I ate or would suggest.

Les Enfants Du Marche

This food market is located in Le Marais & as I’ve said one of the most historic areas in Paris. I’ve eaten here twice before and it’s always great. It’s a typical food market, with a selection of different cultural cuisines, but many are North African,as this area is where many of the early immigrants to Paris settled. There are many other fantastic North African restaurants in Le Marais. A lot of the food vendors don’t provide seating, so you will see people standing to eat or drink, but there are communal tables around the perimeter of the market. It’s open every day, except Monday and most days until 10.30pm.

Les Enfants Du Marche Image credit Wikipedia

Pink mamma 

It’s just pizza and there are lots of restaurants by the Big Mamma group in Paris, but this is the one that is the most instagram worthy and therefore the one that unless you book ahead, you probably won’t get into. Guess what I didn’t book ahead and we couldn’t get a reservation on the evening we were in South Pigalle, but in all honesty, there are some fantastic restaurants in the area since it’s been gentrified and we had one of our best there, 3 courses, for 2 of us, €80.

Image Credit Pink Mamma

Derriere

If you want an experience like no other ,then I would recommend Derriere, in Le Marais. The food is pretty good, but it’s the decor, ambience & atmosphere that draws people here. I ate here in 2014, when I went to celebrate my 50th birthday & if you want to know more about what makes this venue so different, you can read my blog from that time here. The restaurant is located in a run down small chateau style house with a courtyard garden and was created by the guys behind London’s Sketch restaurant and Momo. Even if your meal doesn’t blow you away, the atmosphere and sense of decadence & bohemia will.

 Derriere Image credit Office du Tourisme

Any Bakers in Paris

Part of the thrill of self catering in Paris, is queing for your freshly baked bread, baguette or croissants in the morning. However even if you’re staying in a hotel, a trip to any bakers in Paris, for a slice of quiche or a cake is a must.  From macaron, to chocolat eclairs, everything is delicious and a feast for the eyes as much as the stomach. 

7.Ride

When you arrive in Paris, you might be tempted to take a taxi to your apartment or hotel, but I wouldn’t. They are both slow & expensive and many of the roads in Paris have the same names but in different arrondissements, as we found out to our surprise after being dropped off at the wrong apartment. We then had to walk another 25 minutes in the dark, through a red light area, truly a terrible experience, without going into too much detail, before we found our actual apartment.

Instead buy a ticket for the metro from the airport, for the amount of days you will be staying in the city and you’ll find the public transport, clean, fast & efficient. When you arrive at CDG airport the RER B train will take you into Paris Gare Du Nord station where you can then trasfer to the metro to your destination.

Taking a river cruise along the seine in the evening, is the best way to see the cities landmarks such as The eiffel tower lit up. It’s quite a magical experience. There are many options for cruises, some including dinner and they get busy at weekends, so booking in advance of your trip is recommended.

8. Watch

For a small traditional cabaret club, try Lapin Agile in Montmartre. This historic venue is largely unchanged since the 1800’s when it was frequented by the Demi-monde of Parisian society. Later struggling artists such as Picasso were the clientele, where they gathered to discuss art. Book in advance to hear classic French songs sung by the chanteuse of the day.

Lapin Agile Photo Credit Montmartre Addict

Madame Arthur

There are many cabaret and burlesque clubs in Paris, most famous, The Moulin Rouge and Crazy Horse. However they are expensive. For something just as traditional to Paris but much cheaper, there is Madame Arthurs. First opened in 1946, it is the oldest transformist cabaret in Paris.It closed in 2010 but reopened it’s doors in 2015 and has become popular with the LBGTQ+ community. Expect a fun and fabulous show and a DJ set. Open from Thursday – Sunday. The show finishes at 11.00pm but the dancing continues until 6.00am.

Madame Arthur Image credit Tiqets

People Watching 

The universal pastime of many of us and no where better to do it. Watching the super stylish Parisians is one of my favourite things to do and it’s totally free!

I could tell you so much more but the real excitement of being in a city is finding your own thing, getting lost, being open to anything.The Joie de vivre of it πŸ™‚

 

 

 

 

Share:

Leave a Reply